Ashton Carter (C), US President Barack Obama (L) and US Vice President Joseph Biden (R)..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The elimination of a central Islamic State (ISIS) commander was a "significant blow" to the self-styled caliphate, CNN quoted Defense Secretary Ashton Carter as saying on Saturday.
In an official statement, Carter said that the decision to execute the operation that killed a key ISIS figure known as Abu Sayyaf came as a directive by US President Barack Obama and described the target killed by US special forces at al-Amr in eastern Syria as a key logistics figure in the jihadist organization.
"Abu Sayyaf was involved in [the Islamic State group's] military operations and helped direct the terrorist organization's illicit oil, gas and financial operations as well," Carter said.
Sources familiar with the operation told CNN that the mission was spear-headed by approximately two dozen members of the US Army's Delta Force.
According to the sources, Delta Force entered the target area aboard Blackhawk helicopters and V-22 aircraft and came into contact with Islamic State combatants who took positions inside and around a multistory building.
The subsequent battle involved room to room fighting and hand to hand combat.
Abu Sayyaf was killed as "he tried to engage US troops", sources confirmed.
While Abu Sayyaf was killed during the raid, his wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured. An FBI-led interrogation unit will question Umm Sayyaf, who is suspected of being an active accomplice in the enslavement and widespread abuse of young woman captured by the group's fighters, such as the one young Yazidi girl rescued during the al-Amr operation.
Critical information regarding how the jihadist group operates was also seized.
"We now have reams of data on how ISIS operates, communicates and earns its money," the source told CNN.
Carter went on to reaffirm the US's role in the fight against the ultra-violent Islamist group, asserting that the raid at al-Amr is a "reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies."
Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the White House's National Security Council said on Saturday that the operation was was not coordinated with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but that it had been done "with the full consent of Iraqi authorities" and is "consistent with domestic and international law."